With the the end of one year and the beginning of another, it is tradition for all who write about entertainment to wax poetic about the good and complain about the bad. As with most recent years, there will be many comments about the continued death of cinema, many of which may be very valid. Some real crap became top ten hits, most glaringly “Men In Black II” and “Scooby Doo.” 22 films released during the calendar year will have earned over $100M by the time the ball dropped in Times Square, and one or two of those even received some voting in our inter-office poll. With the help of our regular staff writers, I asked for everyone’s five favorite films of the year. With a 5-4-3-2-1 point system in effect, this year came out with a tie for first place, between Hayao Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” and Chris and Paul Weitz’s “About A Boy.”
The Best of 2002
1) “About a Boy”
1) “Spirited Away”
4) “Bowling For Columbine”
4) “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”
6) “Far From Heaven”
6) “The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers”
8) “Catch Me If You Can”
8) “Gangs of New York”
8) “The Ring”
Also mentioned: “About Schmidt,” “Brotherhood of the Wolf,” “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” “Hell House,” “8 Mile,” “Murderous Maids,” “Panic Room,” “Road To Perdition,” “24 Hour Party People” and “Lilo and Stitch.”
How our individual writers voted:
1) “Far From Heaven”: Julianne Moore and Dennis Quaid star as a troubled couple in Todd Haynes’ powerful 1950’s melodrama, which features gorgeous cinematography by Edward Lachman, and a fine, understated performance by Dennis Haysbert (“Waiting to Exhale”) as their gardener.
2) “Bowling For Columbine”: Muckraker Michael Moore’s best film to date is an alternatively hilarious and poignant documentary on gun violence in America today, using the Columbine massacre as its reference point.
3) “Adaptation”: Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and Director Spike Jonze (“Being John Malkovich”) team up again in a hilarious comedy based on Susan Orlean’s novel “The Orchid Thief,” and starring Nicholas Cage as twin brothers, one a successful screenwriter struggling to adapt the novel, and the other an untalented, but charming, wannabe writer.
4) “About Schmidt”: Jack Nicholson is absolutely brilliant as a recently retired insurance executive in writer-director Alexander Payne’s (“Election”) funny and touching story of a man struggling to find meaning in his life after a traumatic event.
5) “Road To Perdition”: Sam Mendes’ visually stunning follow-up to “American Beauty” is a Western-influenced, depression-era story of revenge among a group of Irish gangsters, with excellent performances from Tom Hanks as a hit man and Paul Newman as the ruthless mob boss.
Ray’s Special Mention: “The Man Without A Past”: Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki perfects his deadpan comic style in this wry, moving portrait of a man known only as “M,” who is suffering from amnesia after he is beaten up. The film details his slow recovery, with the help of various characters on the fringes of society, and also by a Salvation Army worker, played by the talented Kaurismaki regular Kati Outinen. (Opens in the US this spring.)
1) “About a Boy”: I’m a big fan of Nick Hornby and when I had heard the Weitz brothers were involved in the picture as directors, I cringed. But they delivered. In a pitch-perfect performance, Hugh Grant gives one of the best of the year and Nicholas Hoult emerges as a great find.
2) “Gangs of New York”: With all the advance negative press on this one, I wasn’t sure if this was going to be a collosal failure or a worthy picture. Still, can’t wait to see the film’s entire cut, all four hours of it.
3) “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”
5) “Road to Perdition”
1) “Spirited Away”: Absolutely amazing and beautiful. I didn’t think Miyazaki could top “Princess Mononoke” but he did. And then some.
2) “Catch Me If You Can”: Welcome back Leo! My god was he delicious in this beautifully shot and engaging film.
3) “Brotherhood of the Wolf”: Mind-blowing, I walked out of the theatre in awe.
4) “8 Mile”: It’s Eminem baby! I was really into this film (still am!) and listen to the soundtrack all the time months later.
5) “About A Boy”: Read the book before I knew this was being made into a movie, and wasn’t sure if they’d be able to make it good. Damn was I surprised, it was wonderful!
Cassandra’s Special Mentions: “Wasabi,” “Monsoon Wedding” and “Panic Room”
1) “Spirited Away”: I am still flabergasted this film did not find an audience in the States. Beautiful and magical in such a pure sense, and worth multiple viewings. A classic to be treasured for generations to come.
2) “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”: If one were to say that Spirited Away was really a 2001 movie, since that it when it was released in its native Japan, then this would be the best film of the year. George Clooney shows he was paying attention working with his Section Eight Productions partner Steven Soderbergh, bringing an air of confidence and fun to what could have been a difficult tone to pull off. Sam Rockwell adds another great role to his already impressive CV, and the numerous cameos from Friends of George are fun instead of distracting. The best work of American fiction this year.
3) “Bowling For Columbine”: Michael Moore does it again. No other filmmaker can mix biting satire and intense seriousness as well. What on the outset sounds like a recipe for disaster becomes one of those works that makes you proud to be a human being
4) “Panic Room”: There’s nothing wrong with a well made thriller. Sure, you’re pretty damn sure how it’s going to end, but most of the fun is in how we get from Point A to Point Z. Wherever David Fincher goes, I will follow.
5) “About Schmidt”: That Jack Nicholson can still amaze this far into his career is a testament to how deep his talent goes. Easily his best role in a quarter century. Surrounded by a top flight cast and with the great Alexander Payne at the helm, this serio-comedic look at one man’s resolution of his life deserves to be required viewing for everyone passing into adulthood.
Edward’s Special Mentions: “Wasabi” and “Jackass”: A minor title in the Jean Reno filmography and the big screen version of Johnny Knoxville’s frat boys gone wild show, these two films were the most fun I had at movie theatres this year.
1) “The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers”
2) “About a Boy”
3) “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”
5) “Lilo and Stitch”
1) “Adaptation”: Mind fucking has never felt better. Charlie Kaufman and his “twin brother” Donald have come up with a twisted self-reflective, post-modern, nerve-wracking story within a story, within a story, within a story, about writers block, self worth, and orchids…
2) “The Ring”: Chilling tale about a taper “Don’t watch the fucking tape!” Shivers were running up and down my spine during this genuinely creepy film. The creepiest flick since “Session 9”.
3) “Hell House”: Documentary about a small Pentecostal church in Texas trying to scare the Hell out of you and in to their Church. It is all at once horrific, terrifying, infuriating, funny and fascinating. Best Horror film of the year!
4) “Murderous Maids”: Based on the true crime story of the Papin sisters, two French maids, who murdered their employer and her daughter in 1933. Grim, disturbing film that will haunt your mind for days.
5) “24 Hour Party People”: The story of Tony Wilson and Factory Records. Dead pigeons, Joy Division, Drugs, Rock and Roll, more drugs, and the birth of the Rave Scene. Did I mention the dead pigeons, lots of dead pigeonsr
Randy’s Special Mention: “Dog Soldiers” This film is grabs you by the throat, lifts you up, shakes you around, throws you across the room and then comes at you again for another swipe. It is extremely fun, fast-paced and frightening, and with enough biting satire to ease the tension. (Yet to have an American distribution deal.)
Given that I hate pretty much everyone in the reviewing business, I am not about to follow their lead.
For myself, 2002 was a very good year for movies. Living in the greatest city for movie lovers in North America (sorry Los Angeles and Toronto), I was able to movie theatres and see the original “Mr. Deeds Goes To Town,” several Buster Keaton comedies, a couple of Kurosawa/Mifune dramas and Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis”… twice, including one time at the Ziegfeld, the best movie theatre in the greatest city for movie lovers. I had the opportunity to see over a thousand different films, documentaries and short subjects, even if I only went to see about 1/10th of those. I could have caught up on all the Miike films I’ve yet to see and on the Tati films I haven’t seen in a decade in the same week, if I wasn’t off on my honeymoon. And without being in New York, this site wouldn’t have seen a fourteen times over increase in readership from December 2001 to December 2002.
The entire staff of Filmjerk.com would like to thank every one of you for your repeated readership, and hope your upcoming year will be even better than the one just left behind.